Tao Chicago Chef Mike Armstrong
(1) Where were you born /raised?
Bellevue Washington, suburb outside of Seattle
(2) How long have you been a chef?
I’ve been working in a kitchen since 1999.
(3) What inspired you to be a chef?
I was interested in food at a young age, and started to appreciate a love for being in the kitchen and experimenting with food around age 12. I enjoyed home cooking with family and it felt natural to me.
(4) Who most influenced you?
My stepmother Lesley recognized my real interest in cooking and helped urge me along the way. My first Chef, Matt Wallop was a huge influence, teaching me the basic fundamentals and pushing me to work hard and put in the hours necessary. And my current Chef, Ralph Scamardella, has been instrumental in me growing as a successful Chef and being a leader in the kitchen and learning how to run a successful and profitable business.
(5) Describe your career path, including education.
My path has been an unexpected ride from the start and a long journey of just taking advantage of opportunities as they come. I stared cooking in the small town of Sheridan, Wyoming, I cooked for two years, and then went to Culinary School at Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, Oregon. I had the incredible opportunity to stage at Charlie Trotter’s in 2000 right before going to school. That experience had an everlasting impression. After school I went back to Wyoming to run the kitchen for my previous Chef, Matt Wallop. I was Chef de Cuisine there at age 25 for two years, then abruptly picked up and moved to New York City. I landed a job at Morimoto when it first opened. I worked through every station and learned sushi for one year. The Chef de Cuisine at Morimoto ended up leaving and moving to Las Vegas to be the Executive Chef at TAO. I expressed an interested in leaving NYC, and a couple months later he called me and said he needed a Sous Chef. I moved to Las Vegas in 2007 and started as a Sous Chef at TAO, and the rest is history…
(6) Tell me about your Tao Chicago and what makes it so successful.
I am humbled by the warm reception we have received in Chicago. The team we have built is amazing and the response from the community has been great. We have a beautiful venue, great food and service and do our best to provide a memorable experience every night. I’m just happy to be a part of it.
(7) What do you like most about your job?
I love the people the most. I like the challenges of management and being a leader to so many different types of people, and I love learning of other people’s cultures. The diversity of working in a kitchen is amazing and humbling. The fast-paced environment and level of excitement and energy at TAO is unlike anything else and I love it.
Also, the food is pretty damn good… 😊
(8) What is the most challenging part of your job
All of the same things I said above.. haha!
(9) What does it take to become a great chef?
Dedication, Passion, Commitment, and an unexplainable desire to thrive around chaos.
(10) What is your favorite meal?
Besides the TAO Peking Duck??… my homemade nachos and tacos
(11) What do you do in your free time?
I’m an avid sports fan, especially baseball, I like to cook at home, and spend time with my family, especially walks with my wife and two dogs.
(12) Please describe your experience with Jurgielewicz Duck
The Jurgielewicz family has a long standing relationship with TAO Group and it’s the most meaningful to me. The consistency and quality of the product is unmatched. And I always appreciate seeing Dr. Joe and the family stopping by to visit and eat and show the mutual support.
Tao Chicago Chef Kevin Wu
- Where were you born /raised?
I was born in Canton, China on May 28, 1977.
- How long have you been a chef?
I have been a chef for 22 years/ 8030 days to be exact….
- What inspired you to be a chef?
I grew up watching my parents and grandparents prepare traditional Cantonese style cuisine in our home. Meals were a time to congregate around the table and celebrate our culture and craft. My father had his own restaurant as well. I was afforded the opportunity, at a young age, to begin honing my own craft from his years of knowledge and experience.
My father was, by far, my greatest influence. He had a natural understanding of ingredients and flavor profiles and thoroughly enjoyed creating dishes both at work and at home.
- Describe your career path, including education.
I grew up working with my father at China Kitchen, our family restaurant. It was there that I learned the power of hard work and communication. I went to highschool at Bowgen High school, on the South Side of Chicago. My first managerial position was in 2005, at Chi Tung, a 300 seat pan Asian style restaurant in Evergreen Park. After five years at Chi Tung, I moved on to Sweet Station, a more intimate restaurant in China Town. I spent the next ten years honing my craft as both a chef and an operator.
- Tell me about Tao Chicago and what makes it so successful.
What makes TAO Chicago so successful is the fact that I am able to work and train people of many different cultures, my family’s traditional style of cooking. It has also helped me to broaden my horizons with regards to different styles of Asian cooking and cuisine.
- What do you like most about your job?
As a Chinese immigrant, I’ve always had a passion to promote Chinese culture in America. Being able to interpret my knowledge of Chinese culture, through culinary, is what makes me appreciate most, my line of work.
- What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is making sure that every guest is transcended through the craft of what is prepared on the wok station.
- What does it take to become a great chef?
Besides developing great techniques and skills, a great chef must also be creative, a team player, detail oriented, humble and always willing to improve and reconstruct better versions of a recipe.
- What is your favorite meal?
My favorite meal is Peking Duck.
- What do you do in your free time?
In my free time, I enjoy reading about Chinese history, the arts and cooking. I enjoy touring museums and cultural art exhibits.
- Please describe your experience with Jurgielewicz Duck.
I appreciate that Jurgielewicz Duck provides a consistent quality product, which allows me to focus my attention to recipe research and development.